Wake coalition plans 'learning centers' so kids can learn, parents can work while schools are closed

Posted August 5, 2020 9:21 a.m. EDT
Updated August 5, 2020 7:34 p.m. EDT

— A group of Wake County organizations including the public school system, YMCA and Marbles Kids Museum is joining forces to provide a place for children in grades K through 6 to learn in a safe environment while schools remain closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Wake County public schools will start the new school year Aug. 17 with remote learning. The new effort, Families and Schools Together (FAST), will give students a place to go for those lessons while parents work.

Learning centers will offer "socially-distanced student workspaces" with internet access and trained staff. The program will kick off with dozens of locations, and church and community center locations will be added based on demand.

Wake County Public Schools System will provide free meals to children who would normally receive free and reduced meals in school.

Shakyra Keesee is a healthcare work and a single mom to her 11-year-old daughter. Her daughter starts remote learning in a few days, and she’s running out of options.

"I've even been considering her going back to Maryland and letting her do her school online because my parents are retired, and as a mother that breaks my heart. I’m not used to my child not being with me," said Keesee.

Keesee said she’s been working now more than ever, so finding a place that can help her daughter with online learning while she works has been a challenge.

"She needs someone that can help her and right now we just don’t have that available," she explained.

FAST will be available to parents for $24 a day. Drop off can be as early as 7:30 a.m. and pick up as late as 6 p.m.

Since we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, safety will be first priority.

“Providers will follow all the guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC and that includes small groupings, limited interactions and on a smaller scale than school," said Kim Keith, the vice president of youth development for the YMCA Triangle.

Different organizations and non-profits that partnered with the YMCA and WCPSS will have their own version of the program. But, all programs will offer online learning support and some kind of physical activity.

“I would advise families to find a location closest to where they live or work and check out that individual organization, whether it’s the YMCA or the Boys & Girls Club," said Keith.

Families can register online for care before, after or during the school day, and for one, two, three, four or five days per week, based on need.